Chapter one introduces the main characters and we learn that Cassie, the main character, is in the 4th grade. She is not happy to be at school and has to endure a lot of harassment on the way to school from white children in the community. She learns from TJ that a man in town was nearly burned to death by the white people. In school, Cassie is surprised to learn that they have books to use, but then is upset when she learns that the books are cast off books from the 'whites only' school.
Chapter Two: This chapter continues the harassment of the black community by the whites in the area. The white's only bus splashes mud on the children while they walk to school, the man that was nearly burned to death...does finally die, and the children's father returns from his work on the railroad.